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  • Sadiqua Iman

Onyx Arts Collective Has Artists Who Get It

When you enter a gallery like Onyx you know you are going to stay a while. Owner Ernest Thomas greets you with a smile with featured artists milling about the gallery space. They reminisce on past shows in what use to be black neighborhoods. The erie air of displacement lingers in the Pacific Place gallery, yet its effects are fleeting. The mission of Onyx is to give greater visibility and opportunities to artists of African descent. For 12 years their annual fine art exhibits have showcased works by artists of African descent living in the Pacific Northwest communities. On display right now are 30 black artists from Seattle, Washington. (Painting to the left "Untitled II" by Tsehaye Hadish)

Each artist had one or two pieces each, and all had enough wall space to be fully absorbed and appreciated. One piece that stood out from the back of the gallery was a five foot didactic painting called “Hurricane Barbara,” by Byen Stewart. Bright shades of blue whirled around her in hair like strands. The main subject of the painting, Barbara, however was painted in black, white, and grey, with heavy shadowing and exaggerated highlights, which accentuated the bright shades of blue even more. Cartoonish koi fish swam through the waves of hair. She was Yemoja, as seen in someone’s mother, sister, friend, and she was lovely.

Also noteworthy was the work of artist Malcolm Williams, whose paintings invited me to reflect on the distinguishing attributes that make up the silhouette of a black woman. In the painting "Untitled II" a dark figure with orange, pink, green, and blue flecks of paint creating definition. Her skin, though multicolored, reflected tones from brown skin oiled and sun bathed. The figure is draped in a light colored skirt that allows her to squat towards the earth with her legs exposed on either side. A cropped long sleeve top of the same hue hangs loosely off the shoulder. Her head is wrapped in bright orange fabric, and her faceless gaze in this posture stimulates a feeling of ritual. Something about her silhouette challenges you to see vulnerability and power in the same blink of an eye.

For a small gallery space, Onyx Artists Collective lacks nothing. I could have written at length about almost every piece hanging in the gallery right now, but I thought I would simply give you a taste of what you have been missing. Hopefully you will make your way there soon. I highly recommend stopping by on a Friday evening after work. It seems to be a natural watering hole for some of Seattle's best, yet not well known, black artist. I did not know how much I needed to see more black art, until I came to Onyx.

To learn more visit

Gallery ONYX Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 12 to 6pm at Pacific Place Mall, Suite 325 600 Pine Street Seattle, Washington 98101 206-905-4617

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